Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Roxanne Still Rockin'

Just when I thought I’d never make it to Texas, my publicist Angie gives me a call. “Are you free on October 7th?” she asks. “Because Texas Women’s University wants you to speak at their Latina Student Leadership conference.”

I arrive at my gate at LaGuardia Airport and take a seat next to a woman immersed in Confessions of a Video Vixen. I pull out the manuscript of my debut "chica lit" novel Divas Don’t Yield, and continue editing it. (While I wait for the publishing house to send me the professionally copyedits for my manuscript, I always review it myself for any final touches I may want to make. To all aspiring writers, you may have heard this before, and it’s true: all writing is rewriting.)

The woman next to me asks me if I’m headed to LasVegas. She’s going there for a speaking engagement and was told that she would be appearing with an author and wondered if I might be that person. I tell her that yes, I’m an author going to a speaking engagement, but that I’m headed to Texas. So we talk about our engagements, and it becomes evident that we have quite a bit in common. At one point, she offers me her hand and says, “Allow me to introduce myself properly. I’m Dr. Roxanne Shante.”

Yes, y’all. THE Roxanne Shante. The pioneering "femme cee" who at the age of 14 checked U.T.F.O. and is regarded as one of the best freestylers to ever take the mic.

Although Roxanne left the hip hop industry long ago, she’s still fierce. I asked her why doesn’t she write her own story á là the Video Vixen – her triumph over domestic violence, her road to a doctorate degree in psychology and Manhattan practice, her foray into business with her Queens-based ice cream shop where she teaches the students she employs all facets of entrepeneurship. Dr. Roxanne's response: "I'm only in the third chapter of my life." Down to earth and on a mission, she does share her story -- not on talk shows and to shock jocks -- but directly with the young women she's trying to reach.

That was only the start of a wonderful trip. For the first time, I fly into Dallas-Fort Worth and stayed! TWU is actually in a small town called Denton about ahalf-hour from Dallas. I was picked up by Ke’Ana and Maria, two members on conference organizing committee, and then we went to another terminal to pick up the effervescent Yasmín Davidds (with whom I share a literary agent and a mission to empower women and girls.) The four of us have a great conversation on the ride to Denton about women of color in media. The university puts me up at a lovely bread and breakfast called the Heritage Inns, and we have an awesome Italian dinner next door at Giuseppe's.

The next day I do a reading/talk for approximately 75 women -- from high school juniors to graduate students -- that goes very well. After that Ke'Ana, Maria and I head to Chili's for a celebratory virgin margarita and a bloomin' onion. Then it's back to Nueva York.

While it's always good to be home, taking a break from the usual routine to travel to other places and meet some amazing women never ceases to boost the creative flow. I've been working diligently on Burn since September, but ever since my trip to Denton, I've been in a ZONE! Hope I can keep this up on my next trip -- the African American Book Club Summit by Sea.